There was a time, before the age of the ‘Knowledge Worker’, when employees were trained for their specific role, and then they went off and did their jobs. Occasionally, new on-the-job training or a periodic course was required to keep them current with new trends or equipment, but effectively, training was something that was required outside of an employee’s day-to-day workflow. Today, with industries, methodologies and workplace tools going through rapid and constant change, employees need a new type of ‘always on’ training that makes learning new skills a part of their jobs, not outside of them.
To achieve this, organizations need to embed Learn Anywhere and Always On Learning into their core culture. It’s a difficult but critical step in turning an organization into one that can evolve and adopt new operational patterns to keep up with their rapidly changing markets. In a corporation with a learning culture, learning happens all the time – both in and out of the classroom. The Training and Development team, whether they are under a CLO or HR, need to provide the right tools and content that are easily accessible to the entire corporation to foster an environment where learning becomes pervasive.
1. Make Technology an Integral Part of Your Learn Anywhere Strategy
Every generation working today has a relatively high degree of comfort with technology, and most people are already sharing their learning through social media and other networks. Almost any learning content can be digitized and distributed to a wide audience with the right tools. From LMS to CMS to content creation and distribution tools, there are robust platforms that will give all employees the ability to create, share and learn from existing, organization knowledge. The key is to find the tools that fit into your organization's existing infrastructure and workflows to encourage daily learning without disrupting the way people work. Employees like to learn in a format that works best for them as individuals, so offering a variety of integrated tools within the right channels gives more opportunities for them to take advantage of the content.
2. Make Learning a Part of the Organization’s Strategic Success
Creating a learning culture can only happen if the entire organization is behind it, starting with the senior leadership. If learning becomes part of a company’s strategic direction, and actions of senior leadership support that decision, the entire organization will have an easier time aligning.
Some leaders may push back on this change, citing that it's unwise to invest resources in training employees with broad transferrable skills, just to watch those newly, trained employees leave for other opportunities. In reality this will happen on occasion. The flip side of this argument is that it's far more likely to attract and retain the best employees with a clear, demonstrable commitment to their careers through ensuring they have the training they need to grow. Additionally, the benefits of an engaged, cutting edge workforce with knowledge of the latest trends and tools will contribute to the bottom line.
3. Leadership Development Programs Should have an Emphasis on Learn Anywhere
Up and coming leaders in your company should be taught to embrace a Learn Anywhere mentality. Leadership Development programs can have a profound effect on shaping the culture of your company because what future leaders do in their day to day work lives can influence the trajectory of a company’s culture. New learning tools can be trialed and rolled out by these employees, who can then use their knowledge of the program to further strengthen their leadership skills as they test, gather feedback and promote the new tools to the organization.
4. Make Learning Risk-Free
Learning should not only be encouraged, but employees should also feel safe to practice their new skills, even if they may fail at first. There is only so much you can learn from being successful at a task from the beginning. The real learning comes from testing and pushing the boundaries.
That means your workforce must understand that learning and experimenting are both safe and expected and shouldn’t be reserved for formal training scenarios. In a learning culture, acquiring new knowledge is expected, but learners are not punished if they don’t learn as fast or as efficiently as others.
Successful learners stretch the limits and often fail willingly to understand how things work, and, of course, how they don't. Any time an employee takes on something challenging, there is the possibility that they will fail. No one likes to fail, so your learners may be disinclined to push their boundaries on behalf of the organization to avoid embarrassment and risks to their career. Ultimately, it's the act of overcoming those failures that will instill greater learning for the long haul.
5. Measure What You Want People To Learn
People work harder when they are accountable to others for their performance. Successful learners make themselves accountable for learning through deadlines and measurement. As an organization, you can reward people through a variety of ways for participating in learning programs. Many tools offer metrics that allow you to see when, where and how individual learners are engaging with your learning content. You can consider making learning a competition and reward those who participate most. Other tools allow you to embed quizzes into your learning content, so you can test for learning effectiveness.
Don’t forget to assess how employees are responding to your approach, and not just the results of your learning initiatives. Are they taking advantage of the opportunities you’re offering? Are they using the online library you set up? That feedback will help identify which approach is the most popular and effective among your workforce.
The bottom line is, cultivating a learning culture is a strategic initiative for companies as the pace of change increases. Constant improvement is required to stay competitive and learning new tools and processes can make the difference between otherwise, equal competitors. Additionally, encouraging Always On Learning shows employees your corporate culture will support them through their entire career, whether they are with you or not, which benefits employee retention, productivity and motivation. Ultimately, creating a culture of learning benefits your organization in many ways and across multiple corporate objectives.